Richmond and other Bay Area elected officials are rallying behind President Obama’s call for strengthened gun controls in the wake of continuing national outrage over the massacre last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Acting for the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden is supervising a group deliberating actions that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.
The group intends to have a package of proposal ready for President Obama this month.
“Tragedies like Sandy Hook are a reminder to us all that we need stronger gun control regulations,” said Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond.
“We also need many more mental health programs to provide the mental health help for individuals early on, so that horrific acts such as what happened in Newtown are never even contemplated,” Mayor McLaughlin said.
“It is far past time to act to address the gun violence that plagues my congressional district and our nation” said East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee. The federal government should “invest in our law enforcement agencies to help get guns off the streets,” she said.
Corky Booze, Richmond City Councilmember is also in support of stricter gun restrictions, but warns the president should look at the consequences of new legislation.
“Barack should not jump to the music of what’s happening today,” Booze said. “He should really think about what affect that is going to have on the [Black] community. More African Americans are dying on the streets today than any race. I don’t see anybody rushing to make laws for that.”
“On one hand I support the gun control laws, but I don’t want to support a law that’s going to further victimize the people who I’m trying to help,” said Booze. “I’m concerned that when something of this magnitude takes place, politicians (may) jump to make laws that [ultimately] vilify someone.”
“I applaud the president’s proposal and the vice president’s work because we need this nationally,” said Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley).
“We have in California many of these [rules] in place, but in the next state over those same [rules] aren’t in place [so] people can get around all of our laws,” she said. “If we have the same laws nationally it will be more difficult for people to get around them.”
According to Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), “We are the only developed country in the world that allows such unregulated usage of deadly weapons. Our children and community pay the price.”
There are “many things to be done,” she said. “I welcome the president’s position on taking timely action on gun violence in this country.
“We have to face this issue squarely,” Senator Hancock said.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” Obama said “This is not something that I will be putting off.”
After Obama finalizes his proposals, he intends to create widespread support by leading a national public-relations campaign.
“A White House spokesman said Biden’s group was in the midst of its review and has made no decisions on its final recommendations,” the Washington Post said.
To sell its changes, the White House is developing strategies to work around the powerful pro-gun National Rifle Association lobby, including rallying support from Wal-Mart and other gun retailers for measures that would benefit their businesses.
In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action.
Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Simply coming up with one or two aspects of it really falls short of the magnitude of the gun issue in the country,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.